COVID-19 death in Auckland – Expert Reaction

A man in his 50s with a coronavirus infection has died in Middlemore Hospital’s intensive care unit.

It is the first COVID-19 related death in the DHB, and brings New Zealand’s total to 23.

The SMC asked experts to comment. Feel free to use these comments in your reporting or follow up with the contact details provided.

Dr Dougal Sutherland, Clinical Psychologist, Victoria University of Wellington and Umbrella Health, comments:

“The sad news about our latest COVID related death is likely to reinforce the anxiety that many are still continuing to experience around the virus. Kiwis have been quick to mask-up and many parents in Auckland have been reluctant to allow their children to return to school. The news of today’s death will no doubt cement these decisions.

“A death is a tragic and sobering event, one that brings back into focus the very real health concerns our country faces, and perhaps highlighting priorities such as health over economic concerns. Hopefully today’s news may also serve to remind those outside Auckland, who may have been wondering about the need for ongoing restrictions, that our battle with this virus is still very real.”

No conflict of interest.

Dr Christopher Gale, Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, comments:

“We need to express our sympathy for this family. We need to remember that respiratory distress from COVID is a very serious illness, and some people, sadly, will die.

“Most people who have good health manage this virus fairly well. However, for those of us with co-occurring illnesses there is greater risk. We need to care for these people: we also need to encourage everyone to continue every effort to work and care for each other. We cannot, inadvertently, increase anxiety and depression. There is enough loss already.

“For mental health services, this is more like a marathon that continues long after the crisis. They are there for those who are distressed and feeling that they can no longer cope

“As a community, we need to care for each other. Even the most simple words of encouragement right now may be more needed and meaningful.”

No conflict of interest.